Disclaimers: The characters in this story are mine. This is a 'uber' story, set in today's timeline, and some of the characters may bear a more than a slight resemblance to certain other characters we all know, but which are not owned by me. Any similarity to real people is unintentional and purely coincidental. The location is Orlando, Florida. This story is character driven. As in my previous story, there once again is no plot. There is no violence, nobody is trying to kill anybody else, nobody is chasing anybody else, etc., etc. There may be some minor angst here, but nothing too traumatic. The backdrop is a law firm, and from first hand experience, law firms can be rather routine places to work. This story continues the tale of two people set in that environment whose lives are anything but routine.
Subtext Disclaimer: There is subtext, or maintext as the case may be, here. This story deals with the deep, profound love and devotion between two people who happen to be of the same gender. Although there are some scenes depicting the physical expression of that love, there are no graphic scenes here. If that is what you are looking for, you might want to read something else.
Continuing Story Disclaimer: This is the sequel to my first story "Undeniable" and picks up about one week after its conclusion. You may want to read the previous story prior to reading this one, otherwise it will probably not make much sense to you.
Feedback: This is my second attempt at fan fiction. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. Please feel free to let me know if there is something you especially liked or didn't like. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Written by KM
The lazy Saturday morning came with clouding skies and drizzling rain, the light pattering of raindrops on the bedroom window finally rousting the petite form from a heavy sleep. She slowly opened her eyes, momentarily squinting at the somewhat dreary gray light, then finally turned and noted the time on the clock radio. That late? Drowsily, she rolled over toward the center of the waterbed and promptly noticed that that she was alone. Her companion had apparently already gotten up, probably hours ago. As she pondered her solitary situation a moment longer, a subtle aroma made its presence known. Coffee. All thoughts of resuming her slumber suddenly vanished. She sniffed in the enticing scent, twitching her nose slightly, then quickly rose and donned her robe and slippers.
Groggily, Robin padded her way into the kitchen, finding the freshly brewed gourmet blend she so eagerly sought. She poured herself a large cup, added liberal amounts of cream and sugar, then set about locating her conspicuously elusive housemate. She stifled a yawn as she checked the dining room, and upon finding it vacant, next ventured out into the large living room. There, perched in a corner of the plush sofa, Jess sat quietly reading the morning paper, coffee cup in hand. The taller woman had one long leg casually swung over the other, gently rocking a foot back and forth as she studied the day's headlines. Robin entered the living room, and before she had proceeded too far, stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the older woman, mouth slightly open, and then broke out into uncontrollable giggles, nearly spilling her coffee in the process.
Blue eyes peeked up above the Saturday comics section. "Morning." Jess studied the softly giggling woman. "Something you find ..funny?"
Robin sat down in a nearby chair and momentarily composed herself. "No." The giggling resumed.
Amused blue eyes watched with interest. "You obviously find something funny." Jess set down the newspaper and continued to swing her foot back and forth, casually taking a sip of a coffee. "Care to share?"
The younger woman suppressed a grin. "I was just admiring your ..slippers." A chuckle escaped as she assumed a somewhat similar posture, crossing her legs and swinging one bunny slipper covered foot back and forth.
A satisfied smirk edged across the older woman's face. "Yes, I must say they are quite comfortable."
"I can see that." Robin set her half-empty cup down on the coffee table and appraised her housemate's footwear with a critical eye. "I ..um .didn't think that Tweety Bird was quite your style." She tried, but failed, to suppress another giggle.
Both dark eyebrows rose in seeming dismay. "Don't you like them?"
Green eyes glanced from Jess back down to the slippers in question. "They're lovely. They're just so .." Robin searched for the appropriate word. "Yellow."
"Yellow." Jess mouthed the word, then set her empty coffee cup down on the oak table and inquired further. "Do you have a problem with ..yellow?"
"Um ..no." A bemused expression. "Absolutely not." It became apparent that Robin was simply unable to contain her amusement. Her giggles turned into full laughter, forcing her to wipe her eyes several times before she was finally able to get herself under control. She once again glanced at the bright yellow slippers and crinkled her nose slightly. "They are a little distracting, though, don't you think?"
"Really?" Innocent blue eyes regarded the referenced slippers. "I hadn't noticed." A yellow slipper clad foot swung briskly in front of the sofa.
Robin almost lost it all over again. "Um ..Jess?" She absolutely had to ask. "You don't intend on wearing those from now on, do you?"
Jess put a hand to her chest in obvious offense at the question. "Why, of course, Robin." Blue eyes subtly twinkled. "I see no reason not to." One long leg shifted conspicuously and crossed the other, wildly swinging the opposite yellow slipper in front of Robin in the process. "Do you?"
She is so sneaky. Green eyes narrowed considerably. "If this is some sort of attempt to get me to give up my bunny slippers, it's not going to work."
An appalled expression. "I'm shocked that you would even think such a thing, Robin." Blue eyes fixed on green. "You have your slippers. I have mine."
Robin wagged a playful finger in Jess's direction. "You thought that if you wore the most outrageous slippers, I would reconsider my decision to keep wearing my bunny slippers, didn't you?"
The dark head shook vehemently. "No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did." A smirk. "I'm on to you, Jess."
"You're paranoid, Robin. I recall very specifically that you, yourself, said that my slippers were lovely." Jess was confident she had gained the upper hand on the matter. She regarded her yellow slippers with fondness. "I quite like them."
Robin simply stared at the older woman. "You think you're so smart, don't you?"
Jess grinned mischievously. "Yes, I think I'm smart, but it has absolutely nothing to do with my slippers."
Robin moved over and knelt in front of Jess. "You're impossible."
"Impossible? I beg to differ, Robin. I was sitting here minding my own business reading the paper, when all of a sudden, you finally wake up, almost at noon I might add, and come out here and start insulting my new slippers."
Robin bent down and inspected the yellow slippers more closely. "You're right. I apologize." She reached up and slowly uncrossed Jess's legs. "I shouldn't have made fun of your slippers like that." Petite hands skillfully removed one yellow slipper, then the other, tenderly caressing the bare feet as each slipper fell to the floor. "Actually, what I should have done was .." An impish grin appeared. "This." With lightning quickness, Robin shot up and took off running, yellow slippers in hand.
That's it! Jess bolted from the sofa and ran after Robin, down the long hallway and toward Robin's new room. When she reached the end of the hall, the door was closed tight. "Robin?" She called through the door. "Give them back."
Jess knocked insistently. "Robin, I know you're in there. Give them back."
Robin cracked the door slightly and peered out. "Fair is fair. You stole mine, remember?"
"I gave them back."
"Only after I threatened to ban you to the guestroom."
Ahaa. A smug grin. Gotcha. Jess nudged her way inside the room. "Just remember, Robin, two can play at that game."
Uh oh. Robin swallowed as she became all too aware of her miscalculation. "You wouldn't."
Jess smirked, "This is a lovely room, Robin. I'm sure you'll very comfortable here tonight." Sensing imminent victory, she offered one last time to resolve the situation. "You could give them back and avoid this, you know."
A blonde eyebrow lifted in thought. "Perhaps we could call a truce just for today." Robin sat down on the day bed and tossed off her bunny slippers.
"A truce?" Jess was intrigued.
"Yes." Robin grinned. "Perhaps we could declare this 'no slippers day'. She raised both eyebrows expectantly. 'What do you say?"
Jess joined her on the bed. "And, just so I'm clear, what are the benefits of 'no slippers day'?"
The petite body reclined against the throw pillows. "I'm quite sure you could think of something."
Jess leaned forward and covered the small body with her own, pondering the matter for just a moment. "Nope." She grinned. "I can't think of anything."
Robin opened Jess's robe and pushed it off her shoulders. "Think harder, then." She leaned up and nibbled on a conveniently placed earlobe.
Jess closed her eyes at the contact. "Nope. I'm still at a loss here, Robin."
Small hands lifted Jess's shirt top and brushed against a bare stomach. "Then, I would say you definitely need to concentrate."
The dark head rested on Robin's shoulder as the gentle touches continued. "I'm afraid I'm fresh out of ideas." The older woman then gasped as she felt those same small hands slowly begin to remove her drawstring flannel boxers.
"You need to think really, really hard, Jess." Robin completed the task at hand and grazed her fingertips across a particularly sensitive area.
"Nope." Jess nearly croaked. "I'm drawing a complete blank."
Soft lips pressed against Jess's collarbone. "Are you absolutely sure?"
"Um .." Jess was, indeed, unable to think clearly. "Could you give me a little hint?"
Robin's response was to pull Jess closer to her, claiming her lips in an intense kiss. "Does that, perhaps, help you?" Robin asked in a now breathless whisper.
Fiery blue eyes seared into green as Jess grinned. "Yes, Robin. I believe that did it. I suddenly feel ..inspired." She hastily assisted Robin out of her robe and flannel nightshirt and once again met the younger woman's enticing lips. "Who knew .." She murmured through her insistent kisses. "That 'no slippers day' had so many possibilities."
Robin closed her eyes, vaguely aware of the gentle pattering of rain outside, before warm hands and moist lips displaced any further thought and carried her away to other more interesting places. Who knew?
Although it was now early afternoon, neither Jess nor Robin had yet eaten breakfast. Robin was positively starving, and even Jess, despite her self-inflicted morning fast, had to admit that she indeed could use a little sustenance. They both showered and dressed, then met in the kitchen to prepare a light brunch.
"So, what are your plans for today?" Jess poured herself another cup of freshly made coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.
Robin beat several eggs and waited for the skillet to heat up. "Well, that depends on you. Are you here, or do you have to go in to the office?"
"Sorry, kiddo. No hooky time for me today. I need to get some work done this afternoon." Blue eyes held a hidden sparkle. "However, you do need to keep tomorrow open."
All too innocent green eyes glanced up. "Tomorrow?"
"Yes." A frank look. "And don't pretend you don't know what tomorrow is. You've only been reminding me about it for months, and not so subtly either." The older woman lifted an eyebrow to further her point.
Robin was playfully indignant. "I only mentioned it a couple of times."
"Whatever." Jess waved a dismissive hand. "Just make sure you take care of your Sunday chores today and anything else you have to do, and keep tomorrow wide open." A blue eye winked conspiratorially.
The smaller woman poured the beaten egg mixture into the skillet, then prepared the ham and cheese and added it to the eggs. "You're not going to tell me why?"
"Could you, maybe, give me a teensy weensy little hint?" Green eyes peered at Jess hopefully.
An exasperated sigh. "Okay. Fine." Robin set the now cooked omelette down in front of Jess. "If that's the way you're going to be .."
"Yes." The dark haired woman grinned smugly. "That's the way I'm going to be." She watched as Robin prepared another omelette. It was a bit difficult, Jess had to admit, keeping the surprise she'd planned for the next day a secret. She took a bite of her omelette and studied the younger woman further. Robin would be twenty-six. Seven years' difference. Jess thought about that. Was seven years really that much difference? Thirty-three wasn't exactly old, was it?
"Hey." Robin caught the faraway look in Jess's eyes as she sat down a the table with her own plate. "Is the omelette all right?"
"Oh." Jess snapped out of it. "Yeah. It's great." She gave Robin an affectionate smile, then resumed eating. A little shrimp would be good.
Green eyes observed the older woman surreptitiously. I bet she's thinking shrimp would be good. "Not for breakfast, Jess."
Blue eyes grew wide. How did she know what I was thinking? "What?"
The blonde head shook. "If you want to make every day 'shrimp day' that's fine, but I absolutely draw the line at having shrimp for breakfast."
"It's brunch, Robin. Besides, you don't know that's what I was thinking."
The younger woman simply cocked her head and gave Jess a candid look. I know.
Okay. Fine. "Dinner, then. No arguments."
Fine. "No arguments."
They both ate the remainder of their meals in contented silence, somewhat lost in their own thoughts but entirely comfortable, nonetheless. Once brunch was finished, Robin stood up and began clearing away the dishes.
Jess stopped her. "I'll get those. You fixed the omelettes." She padded over to the sink. "Now, remember, do all your chores today, okay?"
"Yes, Mom." Robin grinned, then turned to leave the kitchen.
"Oh, and Robin?" The taller woman flipped a look back at the retreating form. "I do believe you still have some things that belong to me."
Robin stopped mid-stride. Rats. "Well, I suppose I do." A blonde eyebrow arched thoughtfully. "How about a trade?"
"A trade?" Jess put the plates in the dishwasher. "What type of trade?"
"Let's say a double scoop of ice cream at the ice cream parlor in exchange for certain very yellow slippers."
"You're offering to trade me for something that is already mine?" Dark eyebrows shot up in disbelief. "Did I hear you correctly?"
"Yes." A self-satisfied grin. "Take it or leave it."
Jess, you are so hooked. "Fine. Deal."
Robin sauntered out of the kitchen. She's so easy.
"Where are we going?" Robin drove her blue Miata out onto the main highway.
"Can't tell ya. Keep driving." Jess directed Robin through the mid-day Sunday traffic.
"First you kidnap me, then you make me drive my own kidnapping."
"I did not kidnap you. As I recall, you came along quite willingly after I told you that we were going to stop at the ice cream parlor later on." The older woman watched the traffic. "Turn left, here." She then grinned happily. "Besides, since it's your birthday, I get to kidnap you if I want to."
Green eyes focused on the road. "So you admit you kidnapped me."
A quick roll of the passenger's blue eyes. "I am merely giving you directions to get to an ultimate destination which I only know." A smug grin. "That is all."
"Right." The younger woman smirked. "You seem to have gotten better at direction giving lately, I'll give you that."
The game of one-upmanship continued. "I'm steering you clear of one-way streets, Robin." Jess quipped. "I know how difficult they are for you to navigate."
A sideways glance. "You are such a brat."
"Yeah, yeah. Keep driving."
"Can't you just give me one little hint?" Robin whined.
The younger woman stopped at a red light and tapped her fingers lightly on the steering wheel. "You didn't plan a surprise party, did you?"
"No. No surprise party."
"Are we going to a movie?"
The light turned green and Robin proceeded through the intersection. "We're going to Disney World?"
A frank look. "Does this look like the way to Disney World?" The question really required no response. "Turn down this street." Jess indicated another congested highway.
Robin pursed her lips in continued thought. "This looks like the way to the mall. We're not going to the mall, are we? Because, Jess, I don't want to ride the train again."
"As much as I would love to ride the train, Robin, and I haven't had my train fill in a very, very long time, we are not going to the mall." A long finger pointed up ahead. "See that sign on the right? Turn in there."
Robin read the referenced sign and then looked at Jess with a questioning gaze. "This is the BMW dealership."
"Correct. Pull in."
The younger woman sobered. "Jess, I was just teasing you about this. I wasn't .."
Jess gently interrupted. "Just pull in and park the car, okay?"
The Miata pulled into the lot toward the main showroom. Robin put the car in park and started once again to object. "Jess .."
"Just listen to me, all right?" The older woman turned fully in the passenger seat, her tone soft but focused as she continued. "First, tell me a couple of things. Suppose that you were going to get a new car. Would you trade this one or sell it separately?"
Robin swallowed. "Um ..trade it."
"Okay. What about car payments? Would you want to keep your current payment range or could you go a little higher?"
"I could go a little higher."
"All right." Jess proceeded cautiously. "What about a down payment? Would you be able to put anything down?"
The younger woman took a deep breath. "No. Not now. I was saving for that. It's only been four months, and Christmas kind of bit into my savings a little." Okay, a lot, especially due to one particularly expensive item. She shook her head, now very uneasy. "Jess, I .."
A large hand went up. "You're supposed to be listening, remember?" A warm smile followed. "Just go on inside, okay? You said you've had your eye on one car in particular. Go find it and give it a test drive." The older woman's voice was genuinely sincere. "Here's the deal. After you test drive the car, if you decide you like it, then your down payment is taken care of. It would be up to you to negotiate your trade and your monthly payments. How does that sound?"
Robin was speechless. It was never her intent to push Jess into paying, even partially, for her new car. After a long moment, the younger woman finally found her voice. "Jess, this is ..too much. Really, I was only teasing you. I never meant to pressure you into this."
The dark haired woman gave Robin a tender smile before speaking again. "Honey, listen. You haven't pressured me into anything. Believe me, if I didn't want to help you with this, I wouldn't do it." Large fingers wrapped around smaller ones. "I want to do this. I want you to have a new car, if you find one you like." She ducked her head and looked into green eyes. "Will you let me do this?"
Robin sighed. "I feel like I'm taking advantage of you."
That drew an unexpected grin. "You are absolutely not taking advantage of me. I want to do this. Besides, I get the best part of the deal."
Golden eyebrows furrowed. "How do you figure?"
"Well .." Jess drawled. "First, I won't have to listen to you going on and on and on about this purported car every five minutes." Smiling blue eyes met green. "And second, if you get a new car, when I ride in it, I won't be squished anymore."
"Hey." Robin grinned for the first time. "I only mentioned it a couple of times." She paused as Jess's words registered. "Was that a crack about my height?"
Innocent blue eyes sparkled. "Not at all. Just stating the facts." Jess winked, then smiled affectionately. "Now go on, kiddo. Pick out a nice car for yourself."
Robin felt a gentle squeeze at her hand, sighing as she realized that the older woman was completely serious in her offer. Her gaze locked onto the crystal blue eyes in front of her, and she swallowed in an attempt to keep her emotions in check. "You are .." She glanced upward, searching her mind for an appropriate word, then whispered. "Amazing." She smiled, then let go of Jess's hand. "Will you come in with me?"
"Absolutely." The taller woman started to open the car door but was stopped as small arms encircled her and held onto her tightly.
"Thank you, Jess." Robin's voice was now shaky with emotion. "Very much."
Jess hugged back, reveling in the connection between them. "You're very welcome, sweetheart. Happy Birthday." She leaned back. "Ready?"
A nod, then a very excited grin. "Ready."
They walked into the rather large showroom, and Jess asked to see the manager while Robin admired several of the showroom vehicles. A few moments later, a tall gentleman appeared from one of the offices. "Ms. Harrison, good to see you again."
"Mr. Whitman." Jess extended her hand, then motioned toward Robin. "This is Robin Wilson. She'll be looking at some of your cars today. In accordance with our arrangement, the down payment I deposited with you yesterday will apply toward whichever car she chooses."
The manager smiled. "Very good. Ms. Wilson, let me have one of our sales personnel assist you with your selection and then accompany you on a test drive." He quickly waved an eager salesman over, then turned his attention toward Robin. "We'll discuss the specifics of an actual deal upon your return."
Robin nodded politely, but if truth be told, was quite overwhelmed. She turned to Jess and whispered. "You came here yesterday and set this up, didn't you?"
Jess stared sheepishly at the floor. "Yes."
"I thought you had to go into work."
"I did. I just took a detour first."
"Oh." The blonde head shook in amazement. "I knew you were very sneaky."
The corners of Jess's mouth curved into the most adorable crooked grin. "Anything for my birthday girl."
Robin was sure she blushed.
It was barely two hours later when all negotiations were completed and the two women left the car dealership in Robin's brand new sporty metallic blue BMW convertible.
Jess dimmed the lights and ducked into the kitchen, leaving Robin standing alone in the dining room. After a moment, the taller woman emerged carrying a cake adorned with several carefully lit candles. She set it down on the dining room table directly in front of Robin and grinned happily. "Happy Birthday."
"You made me a cake?" The birthday girl's eyes lit up excitedly.
Jess's expression held a trace of guilt. "Actually, no, but I got it at the Italian bakery. It has special filling."
"Ooooh, special filing." Robin stared at the cake. "You even got the candles right. Two on the top and six on the bottom."
"I learned that from you, remember?" Jess grinned proudly, especially pleased that she had been able to display the rather complicated candle placement system correctly. "Let me sing." She proceeded to sing the entire birthday song to Robin, doing a very impressive job at it.
The birthday girl raised an appraising eyebrow. "You did that better than I did at your birthday."
Jess shrugged as if it were nothing special. "Now, go ahead and make a wish and blow out your candles."
Petite hands rested on the front of the table as Robin first took a deep breath, then made a wish and blew out the grand total of eight candles, watching slightly mesmerized as tiny wisps of smoke trailed haphazardly upward from the burnt candle tips. In an odd flashback, she remembered a time when she and Jess had only known each other a little over a week, and the older woman had appeared at her front door for their first home-cooked dinner together, bearing a housewarming gift. The centerpiece. Robin smiled internally as she recalled the wish she'd made that first night, after their evening together had concluded and she had gently blown out the centerpiece's candle. With sudden clarity, she realized that her wish of so many months ago had indeed come true. I am happy. She also realized that her wish of tonight was a mere extension of her original wish. Happiness together forever. It seemed like such a simple wish, and perhaps a bit idealistic, but to Robin, it was everything. The question was, would it really be possible?
"Hey." Jess waved her hand back and forth over the candles, dispersing the wisps of smoke in the air. "That must be some wish if you have to think about it so hard."
The blonde head nodded thoughtfully as Robin brought herself back to the present. "You could say that." She grabbed the cake knife and grinned. "So, what do you want? A big piece or a little piece?" A blonde eyebrow rose, waiting for the response.
"It's got amaretto crème filling and French vanilla icing so I'll definitely have a big piece." Azure eyes sparkled. "Besides, if I don't get mine now, you'll end up eating the rest of it yourself." The taller woman quipped. "You always do."
Robin pointed the cake knife in Jess's direction. "Just for that, you get an extra big piece." She cut the cake into neat, but large pieces and put each piece on a plate, handing one to Jess. "You have to finish the whole piece." Robin proceeded to take a bite of her cake, slowly tilting her head back and closing her eyes in pure bliss as she tasted the delicious amaretto filling. Finally, she opened her eyes once again and practically breathed her delight. "God. That is ..heavenly. You sure do know how to pick cakes." She took another bite and repeated the process.
Jess watched the display transfixed. That is one of the most sensual things I have ever seen. A long finger reached over and wiped a tiny bit of frosting from the corner of Robin's mouth. French vanilla icing. A dark eyebrow edged up. That has definite possibilities. She licked the frosting from her finger, then began eating her own piece of cake.
Hmmm. Maybe we'll both have seconds.
It turned out to be an early evening, as both women were quite exhausted from the day's events, their stomachs still rather full from a delicious dessert. They each had put away two pieces of cake. It was that good. Now, Robin lay in the waterbed curled snugly in Jess's embrace. She ran the palm of her hand up and down one of the long arms that held her, feeling the soft cotton fabric of the flannel sleep shirt and taking comfort in its warmth. "Thank you for today." She whispered.
Jess smiled in the dark. "You're welcome, sweetheart. I hope you had a good day."
The smaller body shifted slightly in Jess's arms. "I had a fabulous day. First, a car, then ice cream." She burrowed her head contentedly into the crook of Jess's neck.. "And finally, amaretto crème filled cake."
"Don't forget the French vanilla icing."
Robin felt herself blush. "That was the best part." She grinned against the soft skin, then took on a slightly serious tone. "Jess, about the car, I .."
"I thought we settled that."
Robin sighed uneasily. "I saw how much you put down on it, and I think it's too much." She didn't want to hurt Jess's feelings, but the amount really was quite significant.
A long finger traced a petite shoulder blade. "If I put it down, it wasn't too much. Let me say this to you again, so you know really I mean it. I wanted to do it, I wanted for you to have that car, and I wanted to find a way to make it possible for you to have it." She brought her hand underneath Robin's chin and tilted it upward. "See, I got everything I wanted and it wasn't even my birthday." Her wide smile was barely visible in the faint night's light.
It's still too much. Soft lips reached up and kissed Jess tenderly. "You are the sweetest person. Have I ever told you that?"
Equally soft lips responded in a similar fashion. "You might have mentioned it a time or two." The older woman grinned, then brushed her fingers through Robin's short blonde hair, playing with it idly between her fingertips. "So, how did your phone conversation go with your folks tonight?
Should I get into it? "It was fine. They called to wish me a happy birthday. I told them I got a new car. They were surprised, but they thought it was generally a good thing."
Perhaps it was the remote way the younger woman referred to the conversation, or maybe it was just Jess's sixth sense when it came to Robin, but something sounded off. "What else?"
There was a long sigh. "How can you tell?"
Jess shrugged. "I just can."
She's going to freak. "My father took it upon himself to set up an interview for me at his golfing buddy's law firm. They want me to come up next week for the meeting." As expected, she felt the body beneath her stiffen. "I told them I didn't want to go to the interview, and that I wanted to stay right where I am. I told them I like it here." Robin was silent for a long moment as she fiddled with the edge of Jess's sleep shirt, then mumbled under her breath. "I just knew they weren't going to give up."
"So then, they aren't going to cancel the appointment?" Jess's voice was even.
"No." The answer was very quiet.
"I see." And, in fact, Jess did see. It's crystal clear what's going on, here. Indeed, it was quite apparent that Robin's parents were simply not going to let up until Robin fully explained to them her real reasons for wanting to stay in Florida. And that begged a further question. Was Robin reluctant to disclose their relationship to her parents because she wanted to be free to end it at some point?
The younger woman continued. "They don't understand, even though I've told them time after time that I don't want to go back there. I don't see why they just don't accept that."
I do. It was now or never. Jess either had to speak up or forever bite her tongue on the matter. It was a delicate situation. These were Robin's parents, and Robin should handle things with them without any interference from her so-called roommate. But still, Jess saw in the situation what Robin apparently could not. Or maybe, she just doesn't want to see it. After a brief pause, the older woman decided to just spit it out. "You're lying to them."
A stunned blonde head lifted. "What?"
"You're lying to them." Jess repeated. "They know something's going on with you, and they're worried about you. They want you near them so they can be sure you're really okay." Her tone was almost sad. "They know you're keeping something from them, and they don't know what it is."
Gray green eyes glared at Jess in the dark. "That is not fair."
"Isn't it? The only way they're going to fully understand your reluctance to go back there is if you tell them."
Robin began shaking. "I ..I can't do that."
Jess looked away, interpreting Robin's admission as proof of her own earlier assessment as to the reasons why. I know you can't. "And that's why they'll never give up."
Robin rolled over and laid flat on her back, staring unseeing at the darkened ceiling. She knew, of course, that Jess was right. Her parents couldn't possibly understand something that they didn't know. She spoke in a soft voice. "If I tell them, it might not go well."
Robin bit her bottom lip lightly. "It might solve one problem, but create others."
"If I tell them, they might .." Robin's voice quavered.
Jess had compassion. She closed her eyes, now regretting trying to push the younger woman into doing something when it was really Jess's own selfish insecurity that caused the pushing in the first place. "Shhh. Come here." She wrapped the small body in her arms. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pressure you into something you weren't ready for."
Petite hands clung tightly to Jess. "No. You had every right to think that. I did say that I'd deal with them and I wouldn't let them control my life. It's just that the reality of what that meant hit me. It hit me that I'd have to tell them sooner, rather than later, and that I'd have to be prepared to deal with their reaction."
"If you're not ready .."
"No. You're probably right." Robin's voice was more resolute, but still held a touch of uncertainty. "I suppose I should face this with them. Waiting won't make it any easier." She became introspective. "If I don't tell them, they'll just keep at it, and I'll end up fighting with them all the time. But, if I do tell them, it might go badly."
"It has to be up to you. I'll support you whatever you decide." The older woman was amazingly understanding, considering the implications either way.
Robin tightened her grip on Jess's waist. "I want to think about it, okay?"
Jess held Robin until sleep claimed them both, each soberly aware of the ramifications should Robin decide to take the contemplated course of action. At least the truth would be out. The problem was, neither Robin nor Jess could decide if that was really a good thing.
Jess stirred from a hazy sleep. She cracked one eye open, noting the time glowing in the dark on the digital clock, and became aware of a muffled sound that barely made its way into her consciousness, but nevertheless, failed to register. She shifted underneath the covers and attempted to resume her pleasant slumber, when she heard the sound again. This time, it fully woke her as she dwelled momentarily in the place between wakefulness and sleep. What ..? Groggily, she turned over and faced the petite form lying on the other side of the waterbed, hearing the light sniffling one more time. "Robin?" The taller frame scooted over toward the younger woman. "Is everything all right?"
"Yeah." The small voice whispered. "Go back to sleep."
Jess heard the sniffling continue. "Robin, honey, you're crying. What's the matter?"
How can I tell her? "Nothing." The voice was barely audible.
"Shhh." Long arms gathered up the younger woman and held onto her very tightly. "Talk to me, sweetheart." Jess whispered and stroked the blonde head soothingly. "I'm here."
For some unexplained reason, what was meant as reassurance instead brought a flood of tears, dampening Jess's flannel sleep shirt considerably.
"Please, honey." Jess was now very agitated. "What's wrong?" She rocked the younger woman, trying to calm her.
A moment passed, then a shaky reply. "I'm afraid you won't understand."
Uh oh. "You know you can say anything to me." Jess whispered reassuringly.
"It's all right." The sniffling lessened. "Don't worry about it. It was just a bad dream, that's all."
That's all? Despite the obvious attempt to minimize the matter, the small body shuddered beneath the larger one, still quite shaken. Jess tried again. "Would you like to talk about it?"
Robin was silent. Should I? She could hear the strong beating of Jess's heart beneath ear, and somehow, it comforted her. All right. She cleared her throat, then cautiously began. "I had a dream about the night ..the accident happened." She waited for any reaction from Jess, or the expected stiffening of the body beneath her own, but it didn't come. Instead, Robin felt the older woman hold on to her more tightly as she listened quietly. I feel so safe here. "It was really foggy outside that night. In my dream, I hung up the phone after David's father called, and I drove over to the hospital where I was supposed to meet his parents. Only, when I got there, they weren't there." She paused. "Instead, your mom and your brother were there, but I wasn't surprised by that."
Is this going where I think it's going? Jess kept a strong hold on Robin and continued to listen.
"The emergency room doctor came out and told us .." The small body started shaking and the tears came again. "You were the one in the car, Jess, not David. It was you, and the doctor told us the paramedics did everything they could, but you didn't make it." Robin was nearly distraught.
Damn. "Shhh. Honey. It was just a dream. I'm here. We're both here and everything's okay." Jess rocked the smaller woman again in her arms. "I'm all right."
Robin swallowed and tried to calm herself, not succeeding very well. "It just seemed so real, and it was like I expected it all along. I expected it to be you and not him. I don't know why that was."
Jess tried to think of something to say. "But it wasn't real. It was only a dream."
"You don't understand."
"What don't I understand, sweetheart?" The low voice was very soft and caring as Jess brushed the tears from Robin's face.
"I saw you."
"You saw me?"
Robin nodded, then took a deep, steadying breath. "Um ..that night, when I met David's parents at the hospital and the doctor told us he didn't make it, they wouldn't let me or his mother see him. His father had to .." She swallowed hard. "He had to identify him. They said that we shouldn't see him like he was ..that we wouldn't want to remember him like that." Robin began crying very hard. "But in my dream, I saw you. I went behind the curtain and you were lying there and you were .." Her voice trailed off, unable to put words to the scene.
"Oh, sweetheart." God, this is morbid. Jess blinked back a tear and shuddered, herself. "That must have been ..very upsetting for you." She resumed rocking the younger woman in her arms, and clutched the blonde head to her chest to offer some measure of comfort. "You know that was a dream, right? I'm right here, and I'm okay."
Tear-filled eyes looked up. "But you don't know what will happen, Jess. David didn't know."
What Robin said was absolutely true. Damn. I need a will. Up until now, it hadn't mattered. The State would take care of everything and distribute it to the surviving next of kin. "You're right. We don't know."
"Promise me something." Gray green eyes locked intently with silver blue in the dark. "If we ever don't agree on something or get angry with each other, you won't leave upset, even if I say things to you that I shouldn't say."
"I won't get angry at you."
"Promise me." The request was more demanding.
"Robin, honey, you could never .."
"No." Small hands reached up and grasped Jess's shoulders with extreme urgency, gripping them tightly as determined green eyes bore into silver blue with a steely intensity. "You promise me." The words were spoken in an unexpectedly harsh tone.
Caught off guard and shaken by the sudden and almost fierce desperation in Robin's voice, Jess stared at the resolute gray green eyes above her own, reading them in all their undisguised guilt, then opened her mouth and simply whispered. "I promise."
Petite hands released their grip on Jess's shoulders. "Thank you." Robin visibly relaxed and settled back down beside the older woman, fully facing her. Almost hesitantly, a lone finger made its way to Jess's face and reverently traced the strong jaw and high cheekbones, then proceeded up over each dark eyebrow and across the smooth forehead, as if committing the chiseled features to memory merely by touch. "My beautiful Jess."
Jess almost lost it right then and there. It was heartbreakingly sad. Robin had extended her guilt from what had happened to David to what she imagined might happen to Jess. But worse for Robin, she had seen in her dream something that was horrible for her, borne entirely of her own perceived guilt. Finally, as Jess felt the small finger continue to trace its deliberate path, the overwhelming enormity of the situation came crashing down upon her, the intensity of it all now too much to bear. She broke down into sobs, herself, and drew the younger woman to her, letting the tears fall freely as she hugged the smaller body to her own. In her highly emotional state, Jess couldn't think of anything to say that would convey her regret at Robin's all consuming pain or to help take it away, so she just said the first thing that came to her mind. "I'm sorry, honey. I'm so, so sorry." She whispered the soft words, then kissed Robin's forehead several times, unable to stop her own tears as they fell.
They held each other for a very long time after that, neither one knowing exactly how long, although it was still dark by the time their mutual tears had dried. Robin felt suddenly awkward and very self-conscious at her overly emotional display. All because of a dream. Nevertheless, it was a dream that seemed so real and scared her so terribly. "Jess?"
"Thanks for listening." It was an understatement, but Robin was too emotionally spent for much more.
"You're welcome, sweetheart." Jess brushed the raged blonde bangs from Robin's eyes. "Now, let's get some rest. We can talk some more later, okay? Maybe you can talk to Dr. Richmond, too."
The blonde head nodded. "Yeah."
Taking comfort in their closeness, they both finally fell into a welcome and restful sleep, neither releasing the almost possessive grip they had on each other throughout the remainder of the night and into the early light of day.
The office coffee maker was a popular place, and the gossip was definitely juicy. Angie stood off to the side and spoke in hushed tones to Betty, while Paul sauntered up to check out the coffee of the day. He couldn't help but overhear their conversation, as he leaned against the wall in seeming nonchalance and poured himself a cup of the hazelnut flavor.
Angie reached for a pack of sweetener. "So, I checked out a few things, and you won't believe who has moved in with whom."
Betty's eyes went wide. "You're kidding."
"Nope. Check out the addresses on the new employee directory."
"Ooooh. Do you think that's why my boss was in her office the other day?"
A smug smile. "I'd bet on it."
"I still don't know." The other secretary became pensive. "It could be no big deal. I mean, people here have lived in the same houses together before. It's not unheard of."
Paul added a bit of creamer to his coffee, stirring it slowly as he surreptitiously listened in.
"True, but .." Angie took a long sip of her coffee. "She's sporting a new bracelet. Now, I've only ever seen her wear one other bracelet. She has exactly one bracelet, one watch and two pairs of earrings. No rings."
"You know this?"
"I've worked for her for seven years. I know what she has. Then, after Christmas she came in wearing a new bracelet. She fingers it all the time. I don't even think she realizes she does it."
Betty wasn't buying it. "It was obviously a Christmas gift. What's the big deal?"
Paul topped off his coffee. This is getting good.
Angie leaned in very close to her friend. "Next time you see Robin, check out her new diamond necklace."
"Wow." Betty thought about that. "You could be right. Then again, the necklace could also be from a family member."
Angie smirked. "When you see it, you'll know. Trust me, it's not from a family member."
"I don't know, Angie. I think you might be jumping to conclusions." Betty refilled her cup. "Maybe Robin's seeing someone."
"Exactly." Angie raised an eyebrow to further her point.
It happened entirely by accident. Paul nearly choked on his coffee at Angie's implication, thereby drawing attention to his presence. His own suspicions had been more along the lines of the junior partner having an ulterior motive for befriending the young associate, specifically for the junior partner's own personal and somewhat selfish case management purposes. But this ..He lifted an eyebrow. Now, Paul knew better than to accept office gossip as the gospel truth, especially considering the source. But still ..He'd definitely have to rethink some things. He hurriedly left the break room, heading directly for his office to do just that, as Angie and Betty likewise returned to their desks to keep an eye and an ear open for any further interesting developments.
The gossip mill was indeed juicy that morning.
After a long day of mostly research, Robin emerged from her office in need of a little activity to stretch her limbs. She ducked around the copy machine and through the reception area toward the break room. Curious eyes watched and faint whispers faded as Robin approached. She snagged a can of apple juice from the refrigerator and filled a Styrofoam cup with ice before returning back out into the hallway. After she was safely out of earshot, the whispering resumed. While Robin and Jess were by no means the sole targets of office gossip that day, they did make for an interesting topic of conversation, and one that left much room for speculation.
Keith Miller met Robin in the hallway. "Hey. How's it going?" He was very charming and quite attractive.
Robin stopped to talk, pouring her apple juice into her cup. "I'm good. You?"
"Not bad." Keith hesitated just a bit before continuing. "Um ..hey, Robin, if you're free Friday evening, would you like to catch a movie and maybe dinner beforehand?" He looked at her hopefully.
Oh no. The young associate shifted uncomfortably. How do I get out of this? In retrospect, it was not at all unexpected. After all, Robin had merely put him off before. She never really gave him any reason not to keep asking. And now, she sincerely regretted not having been straightforward with him in the first place. On the other hand, wasn't it better to keep up the charade for appearances' sake? There was really no harm in that, right? "Uh, Keith, thanks for asking. I can't make it Friday, but I appreciate the offer." That was ambiguous enough. She nervously took a sip of her juice. So, how come I feel so bad?
Keith hid his disappointment well. No one, to his knowledge, had yet been able to get Robin out on a date. "No problem. Some other time, then."
Robin smiled, belying her unease at misleading him. "Right." She turned and beat a hasty retreat back to her office, closing the door soundly and sinking down heavily into the chair behind her desk. She closed her eyes and tried to stem off an impending headache. Maybe it was the clandestine situation she found herself in, or maybe it was simply all the lying and deliberate misrepresentations she had to sustain on a daily basis, but the weight of it all suddenly fell upon her in full force, and she felt its effects in nearly suffocating intensity. The lies were present on all fronts, and they were taking a very heavy toll, indeed. From work to her family, and perhaps even to herself, the half-truths, the misrepresentations, and even the charade she was living, were all proving to be much too difficult for the associate to comfortably manage.
The evening was fast approaching, and Robin stared out at the twilight sky over the now darkened lake below, the first street lights illuminating the traffic-clogged downtown streets in the near distance. She sighed heavily. It was apparent to her that things couldn't go on like this much longer. Something had to give. But what ..and how? Her headache became quite prominent, pounding her temples mercilessly. What will bring relief from this burden?
For an as yet unexamined reason, Robin's mind turned to her conversation with her parents about the unilateral scheduling of that interview with the Detroit law firm. She shook her head at the situation. How do I make them understand? Jess's words echoed in her mind. The only way to make them understand is to tell them. Robin laughed humorlessly. Easier said than done. Indeed, it could go badly with her parents. Very badly. She knew that. And then, what? What if they couldn't accept her relationship with Jess? Did it matter? Hadn't Robin already decided that her parents didn't control how she lived her life or with whom she decided to live it? By telling them, it certainly would eliminate one lie and perhaps stop her parents' unceasing attempts to entice her into leaving Florida. She raised an eyebrow in further thought. Telling her parents would also mean that she was serious about her relationship with Jess, and that it was not just a passing phase that she'd never need to risk anything to maintain. She thought more about that. Loving Jess was not just a phase. It was real, and it was hopefully forever. I should tell them. At least I wouldn't have to keep up the lie to my family anymore.
Robin checked the time. It was getting rather late. Most of the staff should have already gone home for the day. Having made what she considered a major decision, the young associate really didn't want to wait until later that evening to discuss it with Jess. She opened her e-mail program and typed in a brief message.
Are you free? I need to discuss something with you.
Robin clicked the send button, and sat back in her chair waiting for a response. She stared once again out the large window, noting that the twilight sky had now turned fully dark. The pulsing red tail lights of an small plane crossed her vision, and she let her mind absently watch as it slowly made its trek from west to east toward the executive airport only a few miles away. She was brought from her mind's idle wanderings as her computer signaled a reply to her e-mail message.
Give me thirty minutes, then come by my office.
The young associate blew out a breath. Okay. From Robin's point of view, she and Jess may not be able to disclose their relationship at work, but telling Robin's parents would mean one less lie and one less charade to maintain. And that was a very good thing, wasn't it?
Green eyes closed briefly. Or maybe it was just inviting a whole lot of trouble.
Robin finished off some correspondence and kept generally busy for the next half hour. She closed out her document and checked the time, then set out for Jess's office. As she passed the darkened reception area, she noted the now empty office suite and the presence of the night cleaning crew just beginning its work. The associate rounded the corner and made her way down the hallway, approaching the partially closed door to the junior partner's office. She knocked lightly, then poked her head inside. "Hi. Am I interrupting?"
Jess glanced up from her computer, briefly checking her watch. "I didn't realize it had gotten so late. Come in."
Robin stood in the doorway. "If you need to finish something, it can wait."
"No, it's okay. I need a break anyway. It's going to be a long night for me." The junior partner smiled and waved Robin inside the office. "Now, tell me, what was it you wanted to talk about?"
The associate closed the door and took a seat in the chair next to the floor-to-ceiling window. She stared at the night sky through the reflected glass for several moments, nervously tapping her fingertips against each other and oddly wishing she had a pen to twirl. Now that she was sitting here in Jess's office, she didn't quite know how to begin.
Something's going on. "Robin? Kiddo, did something happen?"
Green eyes shifted toward the closed door. "Um ..I keep forgetting. We're supposed to keep that open, aren't we." She was stalling and she knew it.
"Leave it." Jess motioned toward the door. "You look tired. Is your dream from the other night still bothering you?"
"No. I'm better now." Robin was still evasive.
When she gets like this, I have to pull it out of her. Jess stood, then walked over and knelt beside Robin's chair, her voice very soft. "Then, what is it? What happened?"
"Nothing really happened. Keith asked me out again, and I misled him. Again." The associate blew out a breath. "It just got to me. He really doesn't deserve to be strung along, but I just can't seem to discourage him."
"It's not a bad thing to keep your options open for appearances." The junior partner tried to be supportive.
"Jess." The associate swallowed hard. "It's all these lies. I'm not sure I can keep on deceiving everyone." She paused momentarily. "I guess it's all just starting to get to me. I'm constantly afraid someone's going to find out about us. I have to mislead everyone all the time. I've got interviews scheduled for me that I don't want to go to. People are asking questions about things like my apartments and the necklace, and I swear people around here are talking about us."
Blue eyes closed in deep regret. Jess knew that keeping their relationship secret would eventually take an emotional toll, and now, here was the proof. She grasped Robin's hand and softly brushed the petite knuckles. "I'm sorry."
"No." Robin smiled sadly. "It's not your fault. It's just the circumstances. A catch-22. There are risks in telling people, but misleading everyone is hard, too." She hesitated, then got directly to her point. "I've made a decision."
"Okay." Jess braced herself. It's not working out? She wants to move?
"I may have to misrepresent things here at work because of the firm's concerns, but I can at least take charge of my own life when it comes to my family." The associate could see the worry in the blue eyes in front of her. She reached her free hand up to cup Jess's cheek. "I going up to Michigan to tell my parents about us, so once and for all, they won't keep on pressuring me, and I won't have to keep lying to them."
Blue eyes blinked, a bit stunned. "You're going ..you want to tell them?"
"Yes. You were right. This is really the only way they're going to understand why I don't want to go back there."
"And if it goes badly?"
Robin squeezed the hand that held her own. "Then, I'll still have you." A lump formed in her throat, and her voice wavered. "Right?"
She's scared. "Yes." Jess whispered. "You will always have me." Long arms enfolded Robin in a reassuring and comforting hug.
Robin sunk into the embrace, relishing the contact and reluctant to let go. After a long moment, she pulled back slightly and rested her forehead against the older woman's, gazing into compassionate clear blue eyes. "Thank you." She whispered.
If they weren't so caught up in the moment, they would have heard the light knock at the door. A few seconds later, Michelle turned the handle and walked in, then stopped. She had assumed that no one was inside the office, having heard no response to her knocking. As it appeared, Jess and Robin were obviously having a personal discussion and seemed quite stunned at the intrusion. Somewhat shocked by the scene, Michelle quickly apologized. "I ..I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt. I was just going to drop off this research memo." She hastily set the document on the cherry wood desk and turned to leave.
Shit. Jess quickly stood up. "Michelle."
The senior associate paused her progress and looked toward the junior partner, but said nothing.
I feel sick. Jess was quite shaken, and one quick look at Robin's very pale features indicated that the young associate was worse off. How do I fix this? "Thank you for dropping that memo off." She looked candidly at Michelle. "Robin and I were having a personal conversation. Can we ..count on your discretion?"
The senior associate nodded, understanding the intent of the question quite well. "Of course." With that, she left the junior partner's office, heading back to her own side of the building.
Jess just stood there. Damn it. She glanced over at Robin who was staring unseeingly out the large window into the night sky. How could I have been so careless?
Green eyes finally regarded her. "We're in trouble, aren't we?"
"I don't know."
Robin seemed amazingly calm. "Let me go talk to her." The young associate stood up. "You can finish up here, then meet me at home. All right?"
Like I can work, now. "All right." The junior partner watched as Robin opened the door and closed it behind her. What have I gotten us into? This game is way too dangerous.
Robin nearly ran down the hallway to catch up with Michelle, side-stepping the cleaning crew and finally meeting up with her in the senior associate's office. "Michelle." Robin stood in the doorway looking every bit as guilty as she felt.
Michelle's light brown eyes looked up, appraising Robin's unease. "Robin."
"Listen. I wanted to explain .."
Michelle put her hand up and stopped her. "It's none of my business, Robin." Her eyes softened. "Look. Whatever is between you and Jessica, it's your affair."
Robin winced at the unintentional but apt description of their relationship. "We .."
"Robin." Michelle stood up and approached the younger associate sympathetically. "I like you. You seem to be a good person. If you and Jessica want to be ..close friends, then that's up to you. I will tell you one thing, though, and I hope you'll listen to me."
Robin took a deep breath. "Okay."
"You have to understand that she is a partner and you are an associate. There are rules here about that. People could get the wrong idea, especially if it's perceived that there's favoritism at play."
The younger associate felt nauseous. "There won't be any favoritism." Jess promised.
"That's good. I don't know whether you're aware of this, but there's already a bit of resentment here because Jessica made partner nearly two years ahead of schedule. Rightly or wrongly, many people believe she worked Harry around her finger to get it."
"No. She works hard. She deserved it."
Michelle shook her head. "See. You can't be objective, and I doubt she can either. How ever close your friendship is with her, both of you have got to watch out for that." Michelle's eyes settled on Robin's pendant necklace.
Robin followed her gaze. "You're wondering about this, aren't you?" She fingered the beveled diamonds.
"No." The senior associate tilted her head in genuine compassion. "I told both you and Jessica that I would be discreet, and I will. I don't know who gave that to you, and I don't want to know."
Robin nodded slowly. "Okay."
"Just be careful. This place is a millhouse for gossip. They'll eat you up with it, and most of it won't even be true." Michelle turned and sat back down as younger associate started to leave. "Robin?"
Green eyes peered back cautiously.
"I'm sorry for barging in like that."
Robin saw the sincere apology for what it was. "Thanks." She left Michelle's office and rapidly headed down the hallway, ducking into the ladies' room nearby. She stood at the sink and splashed several handfuls of cool water on her face, before drying herself off with a paper towel. Weary, apprehensive green eyes stared back at her in the mirror. Aside from her birthday, the week had gone from bad to worse. First the dream, next the lie to Keith, then her decision to tell her parents, and now ..this. Like a house of cards, her and Jess's carefully constructed façade was collapsing in front of them. Robin closed her eyes and swallowed hard as the contents of her stomach threatened to rebel. What a lousy week this turned out to be.
That, indeed, was an understatement.
To Be Continued ..
© Copyright 01/26/2001
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